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Title: Cleft sentences, construction grammar and grammaticalization
Author: Patten, Amanda L.
Awarding Body: University of Edinburgh
Current Institution: University of Edinburgh
Date of Award: 2010
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This thesis examines the structure and function of the English it-cleft configuration within the framework of construction grammar. My analysis begins with the claim that it-clefts are a subtype of specificational copular sentence. After identifying problems with previous accounts, I outline my own, original analysis of specificational NP be NP sentences. I argue that specificational meaning involves an asymmetric predication relation and is dependent upon the inherent semantics of definite noun phrases (rather than syntactic movement). I treat nominal predication set theoretically, as a semantic relation between members and sets. I claim that specificational meaning is brought about by a reinterpretation of the class-membership relation involving definite NP predicates, whereby the referent is identified as the unique member of a restricted and existentially presupposed set. As a member of the family of specificational copular sentences, the it-cleft inherits properties from the more basic construction. From this, it follows that it-clefts should also involve a nominal predication relation, containing a definite NP predicate. This leads me to argue in favour of a non-derivational extraposition-from-NP analysis of it-clefts, in which the pronoun it and the cleft clause (analysed here as a restrictive relative) function together as a discontinuous definite description. My analysis improves on similar accounts of this type in two ways. First, since my analysis explains the role that definite descriptions play in the creation of specificational meaning, I am able to explain, rather than simply identify, the numerous similarities between it-clefts and definite noun phrases. Second, my analysis of specificational sentences as involving a nominal predication relation allows for a straightforward account of the relationship between specificational and predicational it-clefts. The thesis also examines the historical development of the it-cleft construction. I show that (a) much of the it-cleft's structure is reminiscent of an earlier stage of the language and (b) the construction has become increasingly schematic and productive over time, sanctioning instances which override inheritance from the more basic specificational schema. In this way, the historical evidence provides an explanation for the it-cleft's idiosyncratic properties. Together, my synchronic and diachronic analyses add up to a maximally explanatory account of the it-cleft construction.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available